A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Forsaken is a violent Western: Many characters are shot and/or killed, with blood spurting as the bullets hit. Characters are also beaten up, with bloody faces and cuts and bruises. There's a severed finger and a disturbing flashback of a screaming mother and a dead child. Language is infrequent but also strong, with a few uses of "f--k," plus "s--t" and "damn." Sex isn't an issue, but there's some mild flirting and a wife gently kisses her husband. Social drinking and background smoking are seen. Even though this is a decent, modern example of the Western genre, and the movie promises interesting discussions about bullies, there's not much here to interest teens (aside from fans of star Kiefer Sutherland).
- Parents say
- Kids say
What's the story?
Ex-gunslinger John Henry Clayton (Kiefer Sutherland) returns home after fighting in the Civil War, only to discover that his mother has passed away, and his sweetheart (Demi Moore) has married another man. Clayton's stern father, the town preacher (Donald Sutherland), frowns on his son's life choices, so Clayton goes about honoring his late mother's wish and starts clearing a field for planting. Unfortunately, a ruthless businessman (Brian Cox) is trying to buy up all the nearby land and has resorted to intimidation to do it, hiring the deadly Gentleman Dave Turner (Michael Wincott) and a band of nasty killers to push people around. At first Clayton turns the other cheek, but there's only so far a man can be pushed before he fights back.
Is it any good?
Though it borrows liberally from the classic Shane and doesn't really offer anything new, this lowkey Western still works, thanks to patient storytelling and a batch of strong performances. Emmy winner Jon Cassar, who directed Kiefer Sutherland in the hit TV series 24, is at the helm and allows for many potent, touching scenes of character interaction that subtly strengthen the drama. Wincott is especially good as a three-dimensional bad guy with both a history and a moral compass.
Speaking of history, it helps that there's a lot here. FORSAKEN marks the first time that Kiefer and Donald Sutherland have played father and son in a movie, and Kiefer and Moore reunite for the first time since 1992's A Few Good Men. Not to mention that seeing the younger Sutherland back in the saddle recalls his Young Guns films. He's older now, and his face has plenty of character; with little dialogue, he effortlessly carries his scenes. Even as the plot slowly heads toward the inevitable, it's not hard to care.
Talk to your kids about ...
How are bullies dealt with in the movie? Are these methods admirable, questionable, or both?
What's the appeal (or non-appeal) of the Western genre?
What's the relationship between father and son like in the movie? What ideas or beliefs have come between them? Are these things resolved? If so, how?
Why has the main character chosen nonviolence? Why can't he stick to that path?
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